UK unveils plan to send new aircraft carrier to Pacific

                               By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal </p>    <p>LONDON (AA) – The HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s largest warship, is slated to head to the Pacific region, U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Monday.</p>    <p>Deployment of the new aircraft carrier, which is likely to take place in 2021, will also include two squadrons of F-35 stealth jets to &quot;stand up to those who flout international law&quot;.</p>    <p>Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute in London, Williamson said the U.K. also planned to open bases in Asia and the Caribbean region.</p>    <p>He said recent actions by China and Russia had &quot;blurred&quot; the boundary between peace and war, warning that the U.K. &quot;may need to intervene&quot;.</p>    <p>“The price of non-intervention in global crises has often been unacceptably high,” he said. “To talk, but fail to act, risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger.”</p>    <p>Stressing that the U.K. now had “its greatest opportunity in 50 years to redefine its role”, the defense secretary said that, as the U.K. braces to leave the EU, “it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings”.</p>    <p>&quot;We can build new alliances, rekindle old ones and, most importantly, make it clear that we are the country that will act when required and a nation that people can turn to when the world needs leadership,&quot; he said.</p>    <p>Williamson added that NATO countries should step up and pay their 2 percent share of spending, while European countries must “not be distracted by the notion of an EU army”.</p>    <p>“The alliance also must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us,” he said. “Such action from Russia must come at a cost.”</p>    <p>He added: “History has taught us that crisis comes when it is least expected. As uncertainty grows, we must be ready to act and bring others with us.”</p>    <p>According to Williamson, the U.K. also plans to invest £1.9 billion (roughly $2.45 billion) in the country’s cyber-defenses.</p>    <p>“As the cyber threat grows, we are making a very significant additional investment,” he said.</p>  <p>“Our adversaries are increasingly using cyber-attacks, subversion and information operations to challenge us and the rules-based international order,” he added.</p>    <p>He continued: “I want to see our armed forces embracing transformation at an ever-faster rate, keeping pace with technological change, enhancing our mass and increasing our lethality.”</p>    <p>“Against adversaries upping their spending and advancing technology, we have to respond,” Williamson added. “If we do not, we will find ourselves with fewer options when we face threats in the future.”

China’s 1st aircraft carrier heads for Pacific drills

By Fuat Kabakci

BEIJING (AA) – China’s first aircraft carrier and its accompanying naval formation have set off for the Western Pacific for blue water training, according to a navy spokesman.

State media reported Sunday that Liang Yang said the Liaoning aircraft carrier and its flotilla — which includes several destroyers and frigates — headed toward the Western Pacific on Saturday for an annual training session.

In recent weeks, it had conducted training — including its first live-fire exercise earlier this month — in the Yellow Sea, the Bohai Sea and East China Sea.

The Liaoning is a refitted Russian-made carrier delivered from Ukraine to China’s People’s Liberation Army in September 2012.

In January, the national defense ministry announced that China is designing and building its second aircraft carrier, a 50,000-ton carrier that would be entirely of independent Chinese design and powered conventionally rather than by nuclear energy.

China has been modernizing its naval capacity at a time when the United States and its allies are expressing alarm at its maritime expansion, which they suspect is aimed at extending its military reach.

Japan to remain vigilant after China air force drill

TOKYO (AA) – Tokyo stressed Monday that it will remain vigilant and “watch closely” activities by Beijing’s military after Chinese fighter jets flew through a strait between Japanese islands in southern Okinawa prefecture.

Kyodo news agency quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga telling reporters that despite the aircraft not violating Japan’s airspace, Tokyo “will continue to devote every effort to vigilance and surveillance and rigorously enforce steps against intrusions into our airspace based on international law and the Self-Defense Forces law.”

On Sunday, Japan scrambled fighter jets from its Air Self-Defense Force after eight Chinese aircraft — reportedly including two fighters — flew in international airspace over the Miyako Strait on their way to a drill in the West Pacific.

According to Japan’s defense ministry, the flights marked the first by Chinese fighter jets over the strait, which Chinese military spy planes have passed over in the past.

China’s air force sent more than 40 aircraft to the West Pacific on Sunday for a “routine drill”, while a patrol was also conducted over the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) unilaterally declared by Beijing in 2013 in the disputed East China Sea.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Shen Jinke, People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesman, as saying the activities were conducted “in accordance with the needs of the Air Force to defend national sovereignty and security, as well as to maintain peaceful development”.

On Monday, Japan’s Suga described the Chinese ADIZ declaration as “something that interferes with the freedom of flight in international airspace, a basic principle of international law”.

“There is no change to [the government’s stance] that we absolutely cannot accept the Chinese military’s designation of the airspace over the Senkaku Islands, Japan’s inherent territory, as if it were Chinese airspace,” he said.

The Senkakus — which Beijing calls the Diaoyu Islands — are a group of uninhabited islets currently controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.

High-level dialogue between China and Japan had been suspended for two years prior to a meeting in November 2014 between their leaders due to tension following the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the disputed islands in September 2012.

Powerful quake hits off Vanuatu, tsunami alert canceled

By Recep Sakar

MELBOURNE, Australia (AA) – A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck off the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Friday, but a tsunami warning issued after the powerful temblor has been canceled.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the initial quake occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles) around 535 kilometers (332 miles) southeast of Vanuatu.

It was followed by a magnitude 6.1 temblor that hit around 460 kilometers southwest of the nearby island nation of Tonga some 90 minutes later.

Australian media reported that the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for areas near the initial quake, only to cancel it later, saying there was no Pacific-wide threat.

There were no immediate reports of causalities or damage.

Vanuatu and Tongo sit on the Ring of Fire, an arc of faults in the Pacific that is the most seismic in the world.